Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For You

We sifted through the papers to find the best opinion reads so that you won’t have to.

6 min read
Nothing like a cup of coffee and your Sunday morning reads. 

What Bihar Will Tell us About National Politics

Explaining how Bihar’s assembly elections have often provided a glimpse into larger national trends in politics, Chanakya writes about how the upcoming polls in the state ‘will offer us a slice of the mood of citizens’ in his column for Hindustan Times.

The author outlines four significant ways in which we will understand the political landscape of the country. The first of the four are:

One, it is the first state-wide election in the wake of the pandemic, and there are new Election Commission guidelines to govern the nature of campaigning, polling, and counting. Elections demand direct interface with citizens, while the pandemic demands the least contact with citizens. Will the new system work? Will it come at the cost of equity and access? Will it cause a rupture in the ties between party leaders and party workers, and between parties and candidates and the voters? Will it accelerate the transition to digital-based politics and what form will this take? These questions are crucial because other state elections, in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry, are scheduled for next year — and they will probably have to adopt the same model.  

Why Yogi is Wrong About the Mughals

In his column for Hindustan Times, Karan Thapar argues why he feels Mughal emperor Akbar was the greatest ruler of India. This is in the context of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s comment from last week, where he said, ‘’how can our heroes be Mughals?”

Although I don’t know Yogi, I’ll go one step further. I suspect his question reveals either prejudice or ignorance, possibly both. If I’m right, this not only is unfortunate and unbecoming in a chief minister, but compounds his arrogance. And so to my answer. The greatest of our rulers is the Mughal emperor Akbar or, to use his full name, Abu’l Fath Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar. I know many consider the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, who ruled 18 centuries earlier, Akbar’s equal or, possibly, heroically superior but I disagree. Akbar was not responsible for 100,000 deaths at Kalinga.  

Promise Broken, States Broke

In his column in The Indian Express, P Chidambaram argues why the central government should have exhibited greater statesmanship while dealing with the states regarding the collection of the Goods and Services Tax. Calling the ‘two options’ that the centre has given states to borrow ‘an act of deceit’, the former Finance Minister says the states are right to reject both.

The obligation to compensate the states was written in the law. The mechanism to raise the funds to provide the compensation was the GST Compensation Fund. The mechanism was in aid of the obligation, not that the obligation was subject to the mechanism — a point conveniently ignored by the Finance Minister and her officials.  

The Importance of Chandra Bhan Prasad

Suraj Yengde, author of Caste Matters, dedicates his column in The Indian Express to his predecessor, Chandra Bhan Prasad. Describing him as a ‘shining thought leader,’ Yengde argues how Prasad ‘was our man, dressed in a soigné suit, sharp black tie and handsomely combed hair,’ who gave the community a reason to feel proud and assured.

His reasoning for a capitalist solution was his active position against the twice-born Left and Sangh. Both these cronies are united in keeping the position of Dalits permanent subordinate. He was cognizant that American imperialism was going to hit vulnerable Dalits, but what would a landless Dalit labourer think of his landlord who has been tormenting him for generations? “What could be a happier moment for Dalits than witnessing the total collapse of farmers (landlords) who do not pay minimum wages and humiliate Dalits in their day-to-day life?” Those ruling classes of India did not democratise resources such as education. Thus, he advised Dalits to “pray for the collapse of desi industrialists”.

No Country for Muslims

Tavleen Singh, in her column for The Indian Express, writes about Indian Muslims in the context of the investigation being conducted by the Delhi Police into the violence that took place in February 2020.

There is no question that once the violence began, jihadists became involved. No question that a municipal official from the Aam Aadmi Party was found to have stored an assortment of firebombs on his roof and no question that Hindus were among the dead. But, the real victims were Muslims. The atmosphere in Delhi was so permeated with hatred against them that an attempt was made to blame Covid entirely on Muslim preachers. The pandemic has brought a temporary lull in the campaign of hate that has been launched against Indian Muslims, but tensions remain high and too often find expression on our more venomous news channels.

Exception Becomes the Norm as Special Laws Are Misused

Delhi-based filmmaker Pankal Butalia, in his piece for The Times of India, writes about the Delhi riots investigation. Specifically bringing up the two Pinjra Tod members, he argues that charging them with the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act ‘is an example of the gross misuse of special laws enacted by the state for circumstances which lie outside the purview of ordinary laws’.

Under UAPA and NSA (National Security Act), bail can be denied almost indefinitely. In many cases, the state is not even under any obligation to present a credible case to the court nor frame charges in a time bound manner. Thus, both UAPA and NSA become easy tools with which anyone can be arrested and denied bail for indefinite periods. Laws and courts the world over have insisted on procedure — which remains the only protection an individual has from the overwhelming might of the state. But with this litany of laws which are slowly getting entrenched in the system, the relationship between crime and punishment is getting obliterated.  

Internet Platforms Can’t be Allowed to Monetise Hate

In his column for The Times of India, Swaminathan Aiyar discusses the use of the internet in the context of the Netflix documentary ‘Social Dilemma’. Calling it a compulsory viewing for Indians, he says it explains why hate speech and communal falsehood has spread in India.

This is not because internet companies have bad people or evil intentions. The problem lies in their profit model. They offer great free services. Their profits come from advertising, often subliminal advertising. This means flashing messages for very brief periods below the normal human perception level, reaching the subconscious. Subliminal advertising has long been used by conventional advertisers too, highlighted in books like Vance Packard’s ‘The Hidden Persuaders’. But the smartphone has taken this psychological manipulation to new heights.  

Five Winners of the Post-Pandemic Global Economy, and a Dark Horse

Author Ruchir Sharma writes about potential post-pandemic winners in his piece for The Times of India. The five countries he counts as winners include Germany, Finland, Switzerland, Vietnam and Taiwan and the dark horse is Russia.

Notable is the absence of the two economic superpowers. The US and China don’t make the cut, undermined by heavy debts and by doubts about how their governments handled the pandemic. India too doesn’t make the cut of the major winners. It has long disappointed optimists and pessimists alike, and tends to rank middle of the emerging world pack on my ten rules. That hasn’t changed with the pandemic. India came in 13th out of 25 largest emerging countries in my post-pandemic screen, and ranked top ten in just one of the four key categories: India is relatively less vulnerable to the forces of deglobalisation, thanks to its vast domestic consumer market.  

Life in a Slower World

In her column for The Indian Express, Leher Kala writes about life in the pandemic. How people have begun to question the way they live, question the pressures to be productive and often look back at the horrors of the Spanish Flu or the Plague as a source of reassurance.

It’s been six months since the pandemic discombobulated our lives. A full half year of the dismantling of work rhythms and festivals, so crucial to mark special days from ordinary ones. Birthdays and anniversaries have come and gone, only a gnawing restlessness remains. Mandated solitude can be terrifying for a generation that thrives on social stimuli. This time alone has forced everyone to re-evaluate, not merely at a professional level, what being atmanirbhar actually means. Learning to enjoy one’s own company? Finding new ways to stay relevant? Or simply, maintaining a facade of sanity.
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